Starbucks' CEO Is Leaving — And He Might Have His Sights Set On Higher Office

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In a letter to employees on Monday, the CEO of Starbucks announced his retirement after nearly 40 years with the coffee company. In an interview with The New York Times, Howard Schultz said that while didn't want to create more speculation (like this story, perhaps?), he's considering all his options moving forward. So, is Howard Schultz running for president?

“I want to be truthful with you without creating more speculative headlines,” he told The New York Times. “For some time now, I have been deeply concerned about our country, the growing division at home and our standing in the world.”

In his memo to employees, Schultz specifically mentioned public service (aka politics) as a possible avenue for his future. "I'll be thinking about a range of options for myself, from philanthropy to public service, but I'm a long way from knowing what the future holds," Schultz wrote in the memo.

Myron E. Ullman, the former chairman of J. C. Penney, will step in as the new chairman of Starbucks, with Schultz being given given the honorary title of "chairman emeritus." The title change occurs on June 26.

The company, which started in 1971 as a single store in the iconic Pike Place Market in Seattle, now has more than 28,000 stores around the world, according to CNBC.

Schultz was going to announce his retirement last month, but after an April incident where the police were called on two black men for sitting in a Starbucks without ordering, the announcement was briefly put on hold, according to The New York Times.

But with less than a month left as the top of the Starbucks food chain, what political positions might Schultz pursue? There will be a presidential election in 2020. There has been speculation that Schultz — and a number of other prominent American entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban — could join the fray after real estate developer and reality TV star Donald Trump won the office in 2016.

If the presidency is not directly in Schultz's line of vision for his post-Starbucks life, there are still a number of potential political positions that Schultz may aspire to. The Seattle mayor's office was the subject of months of controversy before Ed Murray ultimately resigned his position in September 2017. Former U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan went on to win the November 2017 election, and her term will end in 2021.

If city leadership is too small, there's another upcoming election in Washington. Gov. Jay Inslee's term expires in 2021 as well, which means there will be a gubernatorial race in 2020 as the rest of the country endures another presidential election. There are no U.S. Senate seats for Washington up for election in 2020 at this time.

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Schultz seemed to be cautious that politics was the only avenue for post-corporate life for himself. "I want to be of service to our country, but that doesn’t mean I need to run for public office to accomplish that," Schultz told The New York Times.

He noted that he will be writing a book and working at his foundation as he explores next acts.

Whatever that next step may be, Schultz told the newspaper it was important that he fully explore it while separated from the company. "I told myself a long time ago that if I was ever going to explore a second act, I couldn’t do it while still at the company," he told the newspaper.

Kevin Johnson, who took over the CEO reins in April 2017, will remain as CEO. "I am honored to call Kevin my friend and partner," Schultz said in statement from Starbucks. "And Starbucks is fortunate to have him. This leadership team is extraordinarily capable."